I’ve stolen that title from Jess, who has written another great piece over at My Path to Mommyhood
As a couple who couldn’t have kids, I sometimes wish we did more “thumbing our noses at the situation”, as Jess describes it – like going out for dinner in the middle of the week just because we can. I was always very defensive with mums when they moaned about how hard parenting was:
You don’t get an unbroken night’s sleep? I haven’t had one since I was 18!
You never go out? Try a full-time office job and see how it saps your midweek motivation!
You can’t even have a dump on your own? Try a lifetime of silence without any kids at all!
I suppose between the lines I was screaming “Don’t you get that I couldn’t have kids?”. I was pickled in self-pity; it got tiring: all it achieved was an impasse between me and people that I genuinely liked. But when you’re raw, it is hard to listen to that stuff from parents. And just as I marinated myself in misery in those days, I think that competing to have the most tortuous homelife can often turn into a sport for some parents.
It’s hard for them to appreciate that someone might crave the chaotic routine that they currently find onerous; that the uncanny, perennial quiet of a house without children might not be a welcome luxury for some.
Now, as a resolved childfree person, I am more circumspect. My attitude just changed at some point. And to be fair, my parent friends never made stereotypical assumptions about my having some kind of louche, libertine lifestyle. And several of them go out much more than I do – compared to one particular mate with three kids under thirteen, I am an agoraphobic hermit. Some mums read voraciously, some childfree people don’t read at all. These things don’t seem to depend on whether you have children or not, in my experience.
I no longer obsess, as I used to, that my life should be bigger, better and more impressive just because I failed to produce children. I see that parenting is bloody hard; I see what responsibilities and outcomes parents hold in their hands.
Anyhow, like Jess, I’m still careful about using that loaded clause “because I don’t have kids”. In my case, it’s because I’m leery of implying that I might have advantages that they don’t have: I don’t want to encourage a stand-off. And there might still be a tiny, hurt voice in the back of my head – a hangover from the pity-party days – that refuses to fully concede that there are silver linings to my situation.
As Jess says, I don’t want to overglamourize not having kids and the freedom it brings, but I do still want it to be known that you can have a “lovely, full life” without them.
Honestly, it’s probably time to just own it.
Parents (hopefully) get rewards back for the sacrifices they make in raising children.
We have to make our own recompense for the things we have given up or lost, and we shouldn’t really be reticent about that, should we?
Thanks to Jess for the inspiration